Why all parents need to know about this £10 lifesaving device
According to research, parents are more likely to buy plug covers than carbon monoxide alarms. But Lisa Salmon says mums and dads should think again.
UK parents spend hundreds of pounds on safety features to protect their children, yet new research reveals a third of them fail to invest in a cheap device that could save their child's life.
On average, parents spend £222 on safety items for their children, but they're almost twice as likely (78%) to buy a car seat as a carbon monoxide (CO) alarm, which costs from around £10 to £20.
Research by the Carbon Monoxide Be-Alarmed! campaign has revealed a third of parents don't have a carbon monoxide alarm in their home, and those with children under 12 months are the least likely to have one (42%).
In fact, stair gates, baby monitors, plug covers, cupboard and drawer locks and smoke alarms all came above CO alarms in the list of must-have safety items.
Carbon monoxide is known as 'the silent killer' because it can affect people before they're aware there's a problem.
Indeed, more than 50 people a year die from carbon monoxide poisoning, and another 4,000 are treated in hospital.
CO Be-Alarmed! campaign spokesperson Lawrence Slade says: "Carbon monoxide is known as the silent killer because you can't see it, taste it or smell it, so an alarm can be life-saving."
Children are more vulnerable to the effects of carbon monoxide poisoning, as Slade explains: "Being smaller, the carbon monoxide enters the bloodstream and is carried around the body much quicker." Unborn children are also particularly vulnerable to CO poisoning, as they depend on the mother's air supply, so if she inhales CO, they have no choice but to take in the poison, which can cause learning difficulties.
"A CO alarm should be at the top of any parent's safety checklist," stresses Slade.
The vast majority (91%) of parents polled said they had a smoke alarm before they had children, compared to just 55% who owned a carbon monoxide alarm.
But why don't all parents install CO alarms?
"I think it's lack of awareness more than anything," says Slade.
"Carbon monoxide does fall under the radar as a threat in the home.
"It's easy for parents to see when their child is going to hurt themselves on a sharp corner when crawling around, or playing with a plug socket, but carbon monoxide could be affecting them before they're even aware something's wrong."
Carbon monoxide is produced when fuels such as gas, oil, coal and wood, which are used in many household appliances, including boilers, gas fires, cookers and open fires, don't burn fully.
The gas is colourless and odourless, but when it's breathed in, it enters the bloodstream, mixes with haemoglobin and stops the blood being able to carry oxygen. This lack of oxygen causes the body's cells and tissue to fail and die.
Early symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include headaches, dizziness, nausea and breathlessness, which can sometimes be mistaken for flu or tiredness. Eventually, people suffering from CO poisoning will collapse and lose consciousness.
"Other people in your house, flat or workplace may fall ill with similar symptoms," says Slade, "or your symptoms may go away when you go on holiday and return when you come back.
"You may find you're getting headaches more frequently in winter, when the central heating is used more frequently."
He also warns that even a neighbour's faulty boiler could lead to CO leaking into your house.
The Co Be-Alarmed! campaign is urging people to follow a simple checklist - Do you have an alarm fitted? Have you tested it, and are the batteries working? Have you had a recent gas check?
"It's important to install a carbon monoxide alarm in your home to alert you if there's a carbon monoxide leak," says Slade.
"However, an alarm isn't a substitute for maintaining and regularly servicing household appliances."
Parenting vlogger Anna Whitehouse, founder of Mother Pukka, is backing the CO Be Alarmed! campaign and says: "I'm a mum and my family is my priority. With a new arrival on the way, we've thought about nothing else other than all the safety features we need to buy again.
"As any new parent knows, life gets turned upside down, and that's why it's so important to get your safety features sorted out early on and make sure your home is fitted with a CO alarm."
For more information about how to stay safe, visit co-bealarmed.co.uk